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Netscape to detail push plans

Next Tuesday, the company is expected to unveil details about Constellation, which will let Internet publishers "push" information.

The stars are aligning for Netscape Communications' (NSCP) Constellation project.

Next Tuesday, the company is expected to unveil more details about Constellation, a forthcoming feature of its Communicator Internet client software that will let Internet publishers "push" information to users' desktops, CNET's NEWS.COM has learned. The company plans to announce a number of publishers that will use the software.

Netscape will also announce a plan to let companies with other push technology servers broadcast information to Constellation clients, sources said. Push or "Webcasting" technology allows users to receive news headlines, sports scores, and other time-sensitive information automatically, rather than requesting it through Web sites.

Netscape and Microsoft both plan to compete aggressively for business in the push arena, but they first need to make it easy for any Web site to use their software. Just this week, Microsoft issued a "preview release" of Internet Explorer 4.0 that contains an early, limited version of the company's push technology, called the Active Desktop.

Last month, Microsoft--along with PointCast, BackWeb, and FirstFloor--announced a new technology called channel definition format that will eventually allow Web sites to create content that works easily with the company's push solutions.

Netscape executives have said they don't plan to support the format, criticizing it as unnecessary. Instead, the company has promoted standard Web technologies, such as HTML and JavaScript, as the tools for creating Webcast content. The company is expected to reiterate that position next week.

As of today, Netscape was still finalizing plans to sign publishers up to broadcast content to Constellation. The company has already negotiated deals with more than a dozen publishers--including the New York Times, ZDNet, and CNET's NEWS.COM--to provide HTML email versions of their content through a program called Netscape In-Box Direct. Some of those publishers can be expected to also sign up to broadcast information to Constellation.

Constellation offers a very different graphical user interface than email. It replaces a user's ordinary PC desktop with a "webtop" that displays animated data transmitted by Web sites.

Marc Andreessen, senior vice president of technology at Netscape, and Mike Homer, senior vice president of marketing, will be on hand to demonstrate Constellation on Tuesday.

Netscape officials declined to comment on the announcements.